PISCATAWAY, NJ — If you needed a quality reminder of this Michigan football team, Saturday night should do the trick.
The shorthanded Wolverines, reeling from a tunnel scrum last weekend that distracted and left two players injured, flipped the switch and turned a first-half scare into a 52-17 rout from Rutgers.
And it all happened in less than six minutes early in the third quarter, when Michigan turned a three-point halftime deficit into an 18-point lead.
From there, Jim Harbaugh’s team closed the door. He scored three touchdowns in a few commercial breaks, aided by three interceptions and short pitches. Senior linebacker Michael Barrett had two of the interceptions, including one he returned for 31 yards for a touchdown.
Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines entered Saturday with one of the best defenses in the nation, a unit that ranked in the top 5 nationally in nearly every statistical category. And despite a halftime streak, Rutgers hadn’t exactly filled in the stat sheet.
A blocked Brad Robbins punt and subsequent return earned the Scarlet Knights their first touchdown of the game, while a long, hard drive sent Rutgers into the half with a 17-14 lead.
After: Michigan missing four starters, DB Gemon Green uniformed at Rutgers
Red-zone woes had been talk on the Michigan field all week, and his coaches swore improvement was coming. The offense responded by scoring touchdowns on six of its seven inside the Rutgers 20-yard line, although a few were hairy.
It took Michigan six plays inside the red zone to score its first touchdown, including three plays from the 2-yard line and another five plays from the 7-yard line to hit it a second time.
Nonetheless, the 9-0 Wolverines got the job done – converting when they had the ball with favorable field position, calming the opposition for the time being.
Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy finished 13 of 27 for 151 passing yards, throwing for two touchdowns. Running back Blake Corum rushed for a game-high 109 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, his sixth straight game with 100+ yards rushing.
Donovan Edwards tied Corum’s run, rushing for 109 yards on 15 carries and three catches for 52 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown on Michigan’s third-quarter goal flurry.
The Wolverines were shorthanded in several areas on Saturday, a game played in front of a bustling crowd of 51,117 at SHI Stadium, mostly on offense. Starting tackles Trente Jones and Ryan Hayes didn’t travel with the team to New Jersey, nor did receiver Roman Wilson, whose absence opened the door to other opportunities elsewhere.
Ronnie Bell added two catches for 43 yards, while rookie Tyler Morris had a crucial 7-yard catch to convert a first down.
Rutgers made the most of their big plays in the first half, with redshirt freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (14-29, 166 yards) converting throws from 37 and 48 yards, respectively. But the magic ran out in the second half, with Michigan’s Wimsatt completely overwhelming and an attack still going. He was sacked three times (defensive end Mike Morris led the way with 1 1/2 sacks), while freshman corner Will Johnson was involved in the first interception of his college career.
The Scarlet Knights totaled just 57 yards in the second half, while Michigan shut out their third consecutive opponent in the second half.
Kicker Jake Moody missed a pair of 50-yard field goals in the first half, contributing to Michigan’s halftime deficit, but added a 29-yard second half to help cap a 38-yard streak unanswered points.
Michigan hosts Nebraska next Saturday, Nov. 12, in Ann Arbor, the first of three regular season games remaining.
Learn more about Michigan football:
Behind the scenes as UM’s equipment staff hum the football team
Jim Harbaugh had a revelation after the tunnel attack. How will Michigan react?
For Michigan RB Blake Corum, patience pays off
Freshman CB takes on bigger role for Michigan football
UM investigates causes and solutions to Red Zone struggles
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